COVID-19 has impacted healthcare provision in Australian emergency departments (EDs). Infection control precautions, including isolation of patients with respiratory symptoms and methodical use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), are of paramount importance to reduce the risk of transmission within the healthcare setting.
Patients presenting to Australian EDs with epidemiological or clinical features suggesting risk of COVID-19 illness are isolated into a physically separate, high risk-zone (HRZ) within the ED. Entry into HRZ is restricted to essential staff wearing appropriate personal PPE. Consequently, interactions between patients and clinicians, particularly allied health, are limited.
Mobile robotic telepresence (MRT) has the potential to maintain quality of care while facilitating contactless communication between patients and staff in the HRZ and the external multidisciplinary team. MRT is a wifi-enabled wheeled devices with audio-video capabilities controlled remotely by a clinician. This study aims to determine the feasibility of using MRT to support clinical care in the HRZ of the ED.
Mobile Robotic Telepresence (MRT) was used on 67 occasions during the study.
MRT showed limited benefit for patient assessment due to technical issues, challenges of communicating clinical information and the unwillingness of users to engage with the technology.
There was higher acceptance by nursing staff to use MRT to deliver small items to staff wearing required PPE at the bedside within the HRZ.
The study concluded that the usefulness of MRT in the ED HRZ environment was limited by the size, layout and technical capacity of the space in which it is operating.